University of Maryland student groups have wanted a Latinx cultural center for several years, and despite recent progress, the project could still be years away from completion, SGA Diversity and Inclusion Director Ja'Nya Banks said.
"This is an opportune time to move forward because we're really dealing with issues of diversity and inclusion on this campus," Banks said. "It's imperative that we get this going."
The Student Government Association's Diversity and Inclusion Committee and Latinx student groups — including Political Latinxs United for Movement and Action in Society, Lambda Upsilon Lambda Fraternity Inc. and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers — are looking for funding and a location for the center, which have hindered any potential progress, said Yvette Lerma Jones, this university's coordinator for Latinx/a/o student involvement and advocacy.
PLUMAS is among 25 student organizations in ProtectUMD that have called for administrative action since November, when the coalition released a list of 64 demands that would protect marginalized student groups. A Latinx cultural center was among these demands.
The groups are looking to get money from the Student Facilities Fund, which "provides funding for student supported facilities projects and improvements that will positively impact and enhance the student experience at UMD," according to its website.
After the student groups submit a proposal for funding before the Nov. 1 deadline, a student-majority subcommittee of the University Facilities Council will review it before getting administrative approval, said Subcommittee Chair Noah Eckman, a sophomore chemical engineering major.
Rarely-used buildings that are close to the center of the campus, such as Preinkert Hall, are ideal for the center's location, Banks said.
In the past, Latinx students have looked for space in Jiménez Hall — which contains the school of languages, literatures and cultures — and in Tawes Hall, where the Latina/o studies program is housed, Lerma Jones said.
Banks said "there isn't really a safe space for members of marginalized groups" on the campus, and "sometimes they isolate themselves or don't participate or stay on campus as much" as a result.
A total of 2,871 undergraduate students enrolled for the fall 2017 semester have identified as Hispanic, which is the fourth most common race identification at this university, behind black, Asian and white students.
The center should take on a role similar to that of the Nyumburu Cultural Center, which opened in 1971 to serve black university community members but can benefit a diverse population, said Tese Inegbenebor, a member of the SGA's diversity and inclusion committee. While the Latinx cultural center would be branded for people who identify with the Latinx community, it will be available to the entire campus, said PLUMAS Vice President Nicolay Duque-Robayo.